Benjamin: Ryan material violates U.S. election law
Federal election rules require candidates to 'clearly and conspicuously' display a disclaimer in all political advertising.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Ann Womer Benjamin congressional campaign is demanding that Timothy J. Ryan, her Democratic opponent, recall all its campaign material and advertising because it violates federal law.
David All, Womer Benjamin's campaign manager, said the Ryan literature and advertising fail to disclose who paid for them, a violation of Federal Election Commission and IRS rules.
"If we are to assume that the Ryan campaign actually paid for this material then the violation of not disclosing their activity is a serious federal violation," All said. "If Ryan did not pay for the material, then the party that did is in real trouble."
All said Ryan's campaign fails to include a disclaimer stating, "Paid for by Tim Ryan for Congress," on the candidate's Web site, signs, bumper stickers and television advertising. Federal law enacted in the 1970s requires disclaimers on campaign materials.
"There can be only two possible explanations; ignorance or arrogance," All said. "Neither are valid excuses. The Ryan campaign must immediately destroy or repair every item in violation of the law. Should they fail to do so immediately, we will be forced to file a formal complaint."
FEC rules state: "When a campaign uses public political advertising to solicit contributions or to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, the communication must display a disclaimer notice."
The FEC considers public political advertising to be TV and radio broadcasts, newspapers, billboards, yard signs, handbills, the Internet and direct mailings, and requires the disclaimer to be "clearly and conspicuously displayed." FEC rules do not say what the penalty is for violators.
When asked for a reaction, Pat Lowry, Ryan's spokesman, laughed and said that he would have to look at federal election law before he could comment on the charges. But he did say that Womer Benjamin's campaign is trying to divert attention from her struggles to make inroads in the Mahoning Valley.
"The Congress to which Ann Womer Benjamin aspires is discussing war with Iraq, funding for higher education and homeland security, and she wants to discuss our treasurer, our Web site and our campaign literature," Lowry said. "If Ann Womer Benjamin wonders why her campaign isn't resonating with voters in the district, here is the latest in a number of examples why."
Also, Lowry said, with or without the disclaimer, it should be obvious who is paying for the Ryan campaign materials.
Ryan, a state senator from Niles, is running for the 17th Congressional District seat against Womer Benjamin, a Republican state representative from Aurora, and former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., a Poland independent who is serving an eight-year federal prison sentence.
Ryan's congressional campaign has come under scrutiny for how it handles its finances, including a controversial $50,000 loan it received during the primary. The loan is being investigated by the FEC.
Lowry said Julie Stitzel, the campaign's treasurer, is going to be removed from that position shortly to become Ryan's deputy campaign manager. Adrian Biviano, Trumbull County's chief deputy auditor, will become the campaign's new treasurer shortly, Lowry said. Ryan's new campaign material already has Biviano listed as his treasurer.